Parkinson's disease - part three: Parkinson's Disease leads to loss of memory
By Syed AkbarAt least one in three people with Parkinson’s will develop some form of dementia (memory loss). Each person experiences dementia in his or her own way and the symptoms usually come on gradually and get worse over several years. According to Prof David Burn of New Castle University, the problems associated with dementia linked to Parkinson's disease include trouble with memory, thinking and language, such as forgetting words for things or people, or not understanding what's being said. "Memory problems can lead to confusion. For example, someone with dementia might get lost in a familiar place. Or they might forget they've done something, or keep asking the same questions again and again. Problems with doing day-to-day things, such as getting dressed, eating and going to the toilet. People with dementia can find it difficult to follow instructions and they can have problems using money," he said. People with dementia can become agitated, irritable and restless. They may start pacing the room or wandering. They may shout at their family or lash out physically. They might also feel anxious or depressed. Or they may laugh out loud or start crying at the wrong times. He said some people get delusions (imagining that something is happening when it isn't). For example, they might think somebody is trying to steal their belongings. Some may get hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that aren't there). "We still don’t fully understand why some people with Parkinson’s get dementia or why others don’t, but there are some risk factors. Dementia usually affects older people so it’s rare that someone with Parkinson’s under the age of 65 will develop the condition," Prof Burn said. Prof Burn's team is testing whether it is possible to identify people with Parkinson’s who have a high risk of developing dementia. Over five years, they will follow around 300 people who are newly diagnosed with Parkinson’s and carry out different studies. The research team will keep track of which people develop the symptoms of dementia. "We will find out if getting dementia can be predicted by brain scans, genetic tests and the presence of certain proteins in a person’s blood or cerebrospinal fluid. Identifying which people with Parkinson’s are at risk of developing dementia would allow doctors to prescribe anti-dementia drugs earlier. We will also understand more about dementia and this knowledge can help develop new treatments that ultimately slow down, stop or even reverse dementia," he said.